While getting ready for an exhibit we’ll put up in the Community Room at River Place, we realized we needed to say something that viewers would read as they went in. The show will be up during March, April and May, hours and small events to be announced, since they’re not usual gallery hours. Here’s what we wrote:
This exhibit is more a “reflective collection” than an “art show.”
Tom and Joan’s lives have held the role “artist” in very different ways.
Tom began drawing and making things when he was very young.
His athletic skill and his teaching, in secondary schools and then for 30 years at Portland State University, and his acting, defined his professional life. “Artist” and “poet” are still descriptions he feels fit him ill.
In his 30’s, when he was teaching in Rhode Island, helping raise three children, coaching hockey, directing plays, teaching English to high school-aged boys, he began painting. “And I Will Make You Fishers of Men,” an oil framed by a lobster pot end, was one of his first paintings, and his first sale. (It was given back to the Buells when the person who bought it, grown old, downsized.)
He painted that and “Triptych” partly to take his mind off overwork.
Objects would gestate sometimes for months in Tom’s studio before they would one day fall into place in his imagination and become part of one of his works.
It was not till he retired in the early nineties that what had been called the shop began to be called the studio. He doubled its size, then a few years later doubled it again, felt it legitimate to increase the number of power tools. He joined a co-op gallery, Gallery 114 in what is now known as the Pearl District.
In some cases, when a work is owned by someone else or is installed in the Buells’ woods and garden, you will find photographs.
Joan has always thought of herself as a “journal keeper,” likely to draw as an accompaniment to writing. It was in her 40’s that she began sketching, first her children, later scenes from home and travel.
She recalls thinking of herself as a musician, many of whose friends were “artists,” and beside singing, often with the guitar, she sang in choral groups, traveled to Europe with the Smith College Chamber Singers in 1952. Her ear for music helped her in language acquisition, so that she became fluent in French early in her life, and later added Spanish.
Teaching, in preschool, high school, and later in adult education, has pervaded her life. During the 20 years she was involved in hospice work, teaching in another form remained a large part of what she accomplished.
So what you see here is an assortment of pieces that are a result of materials coming to hand, a collection of songs as much a creative endeavor as a painting or a piece of clothing. A free-hand cross stitch landscape resulted from a 6,000 mile car trip she and Tom took to Mexico. A skirt made of neckties came out of a bin of silk ties for sale in the late years of the Catlin Gabel Rummage Sale. A cloak made for Tom, after a pattern from a cloak of her own, was made from a blanket found in the Government Camp cabin they bought together with another couple, in the early 60’s.
Joan has found it hard to know how to respond to a person saying, when they see her drawing in her journal, “Oh, you’re an artist!” Yes, she makes things. Yes, she’s taken some classes in drawing, box-making, book-making. Quilts, clothing, hat-making came when time or materials or both presented themselves. But the creative process feels as alive to her when she’s making a pie, or helping design a hospice, or sewing a quilt, as it does when she is painting.
More of our works can be found at www.tcbuell.com.